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Your Oscar Cheat Sheet

Here’s what to root for

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A scene from A Serious Man.(Focus Features)

The Oscars air Sunday evening on ABC, hosted by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Below: the five most Jewish movies in contention (in increasing order of Jewy-ness!), and which categories they’re nominated in. Because how else are you going to know when to cheer, and when to Tweet your grievances?

UPDATE: This list should have included An Education (see comments). Your guide follows:

An Education
• What: Nick Hornby adopted this film from a memoir about a young girl in early-’60s England who falls for an older Jewish man, played here by Peter Sarsgaard.

• Up for: Best Picture; Leading Actress (Carey Mulligan); Adapted Screenplay (Hornby).

• Will win: Its best chance is in Adapted Screenplay.

• Jew rating (out of 10, and adjusting for Hollywood): 5. While the older man’s Jewishness isn’t the film’s dominant theme, or even necessarily his dominant characteristic, it’s certainly in there.

And now, the list.

5: Up in the Air
• What: This flick, adopted from Walter Kirn’s novel, stars George Clooney as professional fire-er. Fans say it’s very now; detractors say it’s very mediocre.

• Up for: Picture; Director (Jason Reitman); Adapted Screenplay (Reitman and Sheldon Turner); Actor (George Clooney); Supporting Actress (Vera Farmiga); Supporting Acress (Anna Kendrick).

• Will win: Very long shot at Picture, Director, and Supporting Actress; slightly less long shot at Actor; favorite at Adapted Screenplay.

• Jew rating (out of 10, and adjusting for Hollywood): 2. Largely on the strength of Jewy (and kind of insufferable) director/co-writer Reitman.

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Reforming Reform Judaism in Israel

Does the movement have a future over there?

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As Apartheid Week swept campuses across America this past week, a group of 70 Columbia University and Hebrew Union College students gathered Monday night to hear about a different topic: Reform Judaism in Israel. Dr. David Ellenson, HUC President, at an event sponsored by the Columbia Current, predicted that Reform Judaism would be able to grow in Israel despite stifling political and economic structures.

Specifically, Ellenson predicted that in the next decade, the number of Israeli Reform rabbis will increase from 60 to 130 or more. “What an Israeli expression is going to require is Israelis who are alive to the culture of what Israeli society is,” Ellenson said: a future brand of Israeli Progressive Judaism will not “progress very far at all” if the movement consists solely of Americans. However, he acknowledged that many of the Israelis studying at HUC’s campus in Israel were influenced by a trip to the Diaspora, where they gain “a broader sense of what the possibilities are.”

As for how Progressive Judaism will grow within an Israeli political and economic system that doesn’t support it, Ellenson argued that it will be able to move outside of the existing structures; he cited two thriving congregations in Tel Aviv that receive funding from the municipality.

Ellenson made it clear that Reform Judaism’s Israeli future is about Israel’s future, too. “You cannot have a country where 20 percent of the people… cannot have a union sanctified,” he argued, adding, “this type of monopoly is seen as pernicious. … I don’t want to be overly Pollyanna-ish about it, but I do believe you can begin to see certain chinks in the formerly monolithic armor.”

Leverett Debates Ledeen on Iran

‘Engagement or Regime Change?’

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Ayatollah Khamenei, 2008.(Majid/Getty Images)

On Wednesday at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., a debate took place on U.S. policy vis-à-vis Iran. You can listen to it here, and read a transcript here.

The central question of the evening was “Engagement or Regime Change?” In one corner: Michael Ledeen, a proponent for regime change in Tehran ever since the current regime came to power, 30 years ago. In the other: Flynt Leverett, just back from his trip to Iran, who believes we should deal with the Iranian regime there is, not the one we wish we had. I’ve written extensively (and critically) of Leverett and his wife, Hillary Mann Leverett.

You should listen to or read the whole thing, as they say. Leverett maintains that Washington should engage Tehran to advance U.S. strategic interests, but it appears that the concessions must come entirely out of our account. Why have six presidents—from Carter to Obama—failed to reach a deal with the Islamic Republic? Because we haven’t bent over far enough.

“I believe that the Iranian leadership has wanted that kind of fundamental realignment,” Leverett said, “and that they would respond positively to it.” No doubt.

Iran: Engagement or Regime Change? [Atlantic Council]

Related: Grand Bargainers [Tablet Magazine]
The Immigrant [Tablet Magazine]
Iran’s Man in Washington [Tablet Magazine]

Why Rabin Shook Arafat’s Hand

New book reveals PM’s motives

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Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shake hands on the White House lawn.(The Knesset)

Slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin agreed to strike a deal with Yasser Arafat because, he told a top aide three days before he was assassinated, “[Arafat] and his [Palestine Liberation Organization] represent the last vestige of secular Palestinian nationalism.”

So we learn in a forthcoming book by that aide, Yehuda Avner. Rabin was extremely skeptical about Arafat’s desire and ability to make lasting peace, but, according to Avner, Rabin also felt that the alternative—the rise of Hamas and other jihadist groups, and the subsequent transformation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a political one to a religious one—was far, far less promising. “While a political conflict is possible to solve through negotiation and compromise,” Rabin argued, “there are no solutions to a theological conflict. Then it is jihad— religious war: their God against our God. Were they to win, our conflict would go from war to war, and from stalemate to stalemate.”
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Today on Tablet

Waving ‘The White Ribbon,’ of God and video games, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, contributing editor Daphne Merkin praises The White Ribbon, Michael Haneke’s “heart-stoppingly beautiful” Best Foreign Language Film nominee, to the stars. Book critic Adam Kirsch briefly puts on his poetry-critic cap and celebrates the late Israeli bard Dahlia Ravikovitch. For his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz contrasts life as Ezekiel presents it to us with life as his beloved video games do. The final part of the first installment of Steve Stern’s novel The Frozen Rabbi appears today. The Scroll recommends that, if you’re behind, you should print out the entire first section of The Frozen Rabbi and swallow it whole over the weekend.

The Proto-Neocon

Remembering Arnold Beichman

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Beichman in 2005.()

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Arnold Beichman died, at the age of 96, last month. A political journalist, intrepid war correspondent, and finally academic, born to Ukrainian Jews on the Lower East Side in 1913, Beichman followed a well-trod path … except the path was his. Everyone else just walked on it.

That path is the Communist —> anti-Communist —> hawkish —> outright conservative trajectory that broadly defines a certain generation of what we call neoconservatives. The recently departed Irving Kristol and the very much still alive and vigorous Norman Podhoretz both did this (though Podhoretz was never so far left); Kristol, who made his rightward turn in response to the New Left of the late 1960s, might be consider the archetypal neocon.

Beichman, though, was anti-Communist by the ‘40s, and on the right not long after: in other words, well before Kristol, Podhoretz, and the rest. (Others turned away from Communism around the time that Beichman did, but stayed liberal, not continuing over to the right-wing side of the ideological spectrum.) In that sense, Kristol, Podhoretz, and the many who came after them owe Beichman a good chunk of their paychecks.

What’s left are the stories. Here are two.

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Daybreak: Public Tensions, Private Friendship

Plus the China exemption, more power to Levin, and more in the news

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Levin, the new Ways and Means Chairman.(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

• Both Israel and the United States have reason to convince the world that the former will bomb Iran, against the latter’s wishes. Actually, though, the two are cooperating on the subject ever more closely (with bombing relatively unlikely). [NYT]

• Syria accused Israel of planting uranium traces at the suspicious compound that IDF planes bombed two years ago. [AP/JPost]

• The IDF is readying crucial, exculpatory information regarding a strike in last year’s Gaza conflict that the Goldstone Report called illegal. [Haaretz]

• The Obama administration wishes to exempt China from new Congressional sanctions aimed primarily at Iran in order to coax its support at the United Nations; this, in turn, is angering Japan and South Korea. [WP]

• With Rep. Charles Rangel (D-New York) stepping down from the post, the new chair of the super-powerful Ways and Means Committee is Jewish Congressman Sander Levin (D-Michigan). [NYT]

• The i’s are dotted, the t’s are crossed, and it’s official: on June 5, Orthodox rabbi-in-training and middleweight champion Yuri Foreman will face Puerto Rican sensation Miguel Cotto at Yankee Stadium. The House That Ruth Built hasn’t seen a bout since 1976, when, in a controversial decision, Ken Norton lost to Muhammad Ali. [AP/ESPN]

Sundown: Congressional Committee Labels Armenian ‘Genocide’

Plus Hitler the abortionist, the Sabbath Manifesto, and more

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The Polish anti-abortion billboard.(Jill Stanek)

• The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee narrowly passed a resolution condemning Turkey’s Armenian “genocide,” a controversial, volatile (and historically accurate) step on which most pro-Israel groups are lukewarm. [NYT]

• Polish anti-abortion activists are using Hitler’s image on billboards, reminding folks that the Nazis legalized abortion in conquered Poland. [Haaretz]

• In an op-ed, Ireland’s foreign minister blasts the Gaza blockade as “unjust and completely counterproductive … inhumane and completely unacceptable.” [IHT]

• Interesting interview with the son of a Hamas leader who, he just revealed, was an Israeli informant during the Second Intifada. [BBC]

• Speaking of! An important Danish journalist has come forward to admit he also worked with the Mossad. [Haaretz]

• Watch the launch of the Sabbath Manifesto.

Shady City

Today in the Dubai Murder Mystery

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If you have not been following this exciting story, I wrote a catch-up Monday for the magazine: do check out.

Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl has a provocative post arguing that the international press (though not the kooky but ultimately even-handed Dubai police chief) have evinced a double standard in their coverage of the assassination (likely by the Mossad) of Hamas weapons procurer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January as compared with, say, the recent gunning-down in Dubai of a Chechen separatist by a gangster allied with Russian leader Vladimir Putin:

the audience for a story about a Russian-sponsored assassination in Dubai is nothing like that for an Israeli hit. Relatively few stories were written about the Yamadayev case; there were no angry editorials in the Financial Times. Perhaps it’s needless to say that Delimkhanov and the other suspects identified by Dubai have not been arrested or extradited. As Shmuel Rosner summed it up in a dispatch for Slate: “The consequences for the assassins? None at all. For the Chechen government? None. For the deputy prime minister? None. For Dubai-Russian relations? None.”

It’s a valid point, though, as someone who has followed this story, I think the especially sensationalistic aspects of it deserve at least as much credit (or blame) for the hyped-up, excited coverage it has received.

The Wall Street Journal reports on something that’s been obscured amid all the talk of who killed al-Mabhouh: namely, that al-Mabhouh, and other shady characters, were routinely passing through Dubai in order to ply their trades. Iran particularly benefits from Dubai’s laxness, according to the article.

Meanwhile, it looks like other countries are pissed enough at Israel over this for there to be semi-real diplomatic consequences. A whole bunch of European Union countries that had either abstained or voted on Israel’s side in a previous U.N. vote over the Goldstone Report instead went against Israel in a General Assembly vote last week, specifically out of anger at the assassination and the forged passports. On the other hand, call us when this is affecting much more consequential Security Council votes.

Finally, a lighter (in some senses) story. Like their British counterpart, Australia’s police have sent three investigators to Israel, to interview those Australian-Israeli dual nationals whose passports were forged. Except these officers made a bigger splash than they probably desired: they were involved in a hit-and-run. Specifically, they hit a woman on a bicycle and then kept going. The woman was unhurt—and prosecutors are not pressing charges—but she wants an apology and a new bike wheel. I’m pretty sure I’m not capable of making this up.

The Dubai Police Chief’s Outlandish Claims [PostPartisan]
Hamas Killing Exposes Dubai’s Dark Side [WSJ]
‘Dubai Passports Impacted Votes’ [JPost]

The Joy of Jewish Cooking

And the books to accompany it

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(Jewish Recipes)

Is it really all that surprising that the woman whose Upper East Side apartment has 1,500 cookbooks—out of a collection that once numbered 10,000 (more than most institutional cookbook libraries)—immigrated to America 50 years ago from Israel? Haaretz has a great profile, complete with her list of six Jewish cookbooks you simply have to own (including one by Tablet Magazine contributor Joan Nathan). Which ones did she miss?

Six Essential Cookbooks Jewish Kitchens Must Have [Haaretz]

‘The New American Jew’

The identity gets a makeover

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Jeremy Ben-Ami.(Princeton Alumni Weekly)

In a Boston Globe column, Jesse Singal articulates the notion that some American Jews may have drifted away from strong support for Israel, or its policies—but not in ways that doom the Democratic Party to shed Jewish voters, or that doom Israel to declining baseline American support.

The premise of the piece—titled “The New American Jew on Israel”—is that “what it means to be ‘pro-Israel’ is changing, particularly among younger Jews.” And the corollary of this paradigm shift is that traditional definitions of “pro-Israel”—as represented, say, in polls—have not yet caught up, which could explain the meager 48 percent of Democrats who say they “support” Israel.

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Phish to Play Wrigley On Yom Kippur?

That may pose a conflict for a couple band members

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Phish. From our left: McConnell, Anastasio, Gordon, and Fishman.(Glide)

Wrigley Field, legendary ballpark of the Chicago Cubs, got the go-ahead to host two rock concerts on September 17 and 18 despite the fact that Yom Kippur begins at sundown on the 17th, and nearby synagogues were concerned about the parking situation. Brief aside: Yom Kippur is really early this year!

But that’s not the real story. The real story is who’s playing these gigs. One of the rumored bands is the Dave Matthews Band. And the other? Well, Dr. Watson, let’s figure this out:

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Aaron Klein On The Air

What journalist’s new show means for conservatism

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Aaron Klein.(The Real Barack Obama)

Aaron Klein, a Jerusalem-based reporter whose forthcoming book purports to uncover President Barack Obama’s “Ties to Communists, Socialists, and Other Anti-American Extremists,” is (according to a press release we got) getting his own show on prominent radio station WABC—already the home of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and other right-wing pundits.

What’s interesting about this is it represents the broader trend whereby the energetic right-wing—which, let’s recall, has actually not historically been a place overly welcoming to Jews and even Israel—has now made common cause with Jewish concerns and right-wing Zionism. We see it in the Michael Savage phenomenon—the ultra-Jewy right-wing shock jock whom Allison Hoffman wrote perceptively about. More recently, we saw it when Norman Podhoretz and other conservative Jews defended Rush Limbaugh’s remarks about bankers, which had come under the Anti-Defamation League’s fire.

Certainly makes that 37 percent gap between Republican and Democratic support for Israel look a little more meaningful, and, potentially, worrying for the Democrats.

Earlier: The Real Michael Savage Stands Up
Podhoretz Defends Limbaugh From ADL Accusation
Is The GOP The Pro-Israel Party?

Today on Tablet

Music that tastes like chicken, Pesach on the beach, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, columnist Shalom Auslander, eavesdropping anonymously on a book club, realizes that the writer’s lot is to be relegated to brief discussions in between life’s real joys (like a good piece of chicken). In Norway, the country whose capital gave its name to 1990s dreams of Mideast peace, Asgeir Ueland reports that the once pro-Israeli public has turned against the Jewish state. Music columnist Alexander Gelfand compares Jewish music to the one thing Jews undoubtedly value even more highly: Jewish food. Jennifer Garfinkel brings word of a reemerging trend: many Jews are escaping to lovely resorts in warm places for Passover. Another day, another installment of Steve Stern’s serialized novel The Frozen Rabbi. Another day, another several posts on The Scroll.

Boxing Tactics, With Yuri Foreman

Orthodox fighter expounds on the counter-punch

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Wanna brush up on some basic boxing strategy? Yuri Foreman—the middleweight champion of the world who in his spare time is studying to be an Orthodox rabbi; and who in the meantime is preparing for a June 5 bout against Puerto Rican superstar Miguel Cotto—teaches you that the secret, particularly if you’re fighting a bigger opponent, is the counter-punch. When your opponent’s going for you, that’s when your opponent is most vulnerable.

Oh, you may recognize his sparring partner.

The Jewlicious Main Event: Yuri Foreman vs. Matisyahu [JTA]
Related: In Training [Tablet Magazine]
Barney Ross [Nextbook Press]

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